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Calif. Ruling on Gay Marriage Sparks Joy, Outrage
California's Supreme Court, perhaps the most influential state tribunal in the U.S., struck down California's ban on gay marriage on Thursday, setting off a torrent of comment and political action. Foes immediately promised to launch a November ballot initiative to reverse the ruling. And while the politicians jockeyed for position, lawyers at Heller Ehrman reflected on their victory.
The California Supreme Court enhanced its reputation as a trailblazing institution Thursday by giving gays and lesbians the right to marry. The 4-3 ruling, which declared unconstitutional a same-sex marriage ban, makes California the second state to grant gays and lesbians marriage rights. But several lawyers noted that the decision went even further than Massachusetts' 2004 ruling by declaring sexual orientation a suspect classification that requires any marriage ban to be reviewed under strict scrutiny.
While legislative Democrats hailed the California Supreme Court's decision Thursday, both they and critics of the ruling warned that the battle over gay marriage in California is far from over. Gay marriage opponents are confident that they have gathered enough signatures to place a state constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would supersede the justices' ruling and outlaw same-sex unions.
Tomorrow, predicted Stephen Bomse on Thursday, "a lot of people will be getting over a fairly massive hangover." The Heller partner was referring to the immediate outcome of the California Supreme Court's decision to strike down the state ban on same-sex marriage. The firm signed up in 2004 to provide pro bono advice to a coalition of gay rights and civil liberties groups looking to strike down the law. We caught up with Bomse to find out about the firm's work on the litigation and what the ruling means.